Departing fans pack airports

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- A Delta Airlines jet takes off without passengers Monday from Baton Rouge Metro Airport en route to New Orleans. The jet and crew had to stay overnight in Baton Rouge after leaving passengers in New Orleans because there was no parking space in New Orleans where Super Bowl XLVII was played Sunday night.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- A Delta Airlines jet takes off without passengers Monday from Baton Rouge Metro Airport en route to New Orleans. The jet and crew had to stay overnight in Baton Rouge after leaving passengers in New Orleans because there was no parking space in New Orleans where Super Bowl XLVII was played Sunday night.

BR flights full; N.O. flyers face long lines

Football fans of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers leaving south Louisiana after Super Bowl XLVII packed New Orleans airports and spilled over into Baton Rouge on Monday.

Officials at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner projected that roughly 42,000 passengers would come through the airport on Sunday and Monday.

Michelle Wilcut, the airport’s deputy director of customer service, said some employees began showing up at the airport at halftime of the Super Bowl, and the bulk of them arrived at 2 a.m. Monday to start preparing for the crush.

Airport officials urged travelers to leave their hotels at least five hours before their scheduled flights because of the lines, Wilcut said.

Due to the large crowds, the Transportation Security Administration doubled the number of security checkpoint lanes available and brought in additional baggage screening equipment, she said.

Checkpoints and airport concessions opened at their normal times Sunday but remained open around the clock at certain locations until Monday night, Wilcut said. Despite the extra measures, lines were still long Monday morning at certain checkpoints and ticket counters.

In Baton Rouge, however, there were virtually no lines, but Metro Airport officials said departing flights were at capacity.

“Our flights are totally full,” airport spokesman Jim Caldwell said. “There’s not a seat to be booked.”

Normally, about 1,400 passengers depart the airport on a busy day, Caldwell said. “We probably have about 1,600 to 1,700 outbound passengers leaving today,” he said.

Joe and Beth Pagane, 49ers fans who traveled to New Orleans from Orlando, Fla., said they flew through Baton Rouge because they bought frequent-flyer tickets.

“U.S. Airways frequent flyers took us here,” Beth Pagane said. The couple stayed in New Orleans, she said.

The couple said they appreciated the short lines at Baton Rouge’s airport.

Ravens fans Luke Monaldo and Stephanie Goldberg, of Silver Springs, Md., flew into New Orleans on Saturday and were departing from Baton Rouge because there were no available seats on flights from New Orleans, Goldberg said.

“Everybody’s been so nice,” Goldberg said.

The Super Bowl also meant heavy traffic at facilities that cater to private airplanes.

At Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, the crowds weren’t as dense as those at Armstrong, but they were still much larger than usual.

Addie Fanguy, the general manager of the Lakefront airport, said the facility will likely have handled about 600 chartered and private flights during Super Bowl weekend.

Landmark Aviation, which runs the airport, brought in roughly 70 additional staff members from facilities across the country to help with the increased usage, and they were augmented by Super Bowl volunteers.

“We probably did six weeks’ worth of flights in three days,” Fanguy noted.

The story was similar at Louisiana Aircraft, the largest such facility for charter and private planes at Baton Rouge Metro Airport.

“We ended up with about 70 aircraft overall. That’s just the ones that stayed overnight,” said Landon Petty, general manager of Louisiana Aircraft. “Another 25 or so came and went.”

A normal weekend in February might bring anywhere from 5 to 10 jets, so the extra traffic was welcome, Petty said.

“It’s really abnormal for this time of year,” he said. “This is a nice little jolt.”

While the number of private planes was fewer than for some other events — last year’s LSU-Alabama football game in Baton Rouge drew 147 private planes — the planes for the Super Bowl were bigger, including some large business jets, Petty said.